Coping Strategies as Moderators of the Association Between Combat Exposure and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

Thomas W. Britt, Amy B. Adler, Gargi Sawhney, Paul D. Bliese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The present research examined selected coping strategies as moderators of the relationship between combat exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms among service members who were deployed to Iraq (N = 2,023) and Afghanistan (N = 1,023). A three-factor model of coping was confirmed for both military operations: positive emotion-focused, self-blame, and prayer/spirituality. Positive emotion-focused coping was inversely associated with PTSD symptoms (r = −.14) and buffered service members from the negative effects of combat exposure in both Iraq (r2 =.01) and Afghanistan (r2 =.02). Self-blame coping was positively associated with PTSD symptoms in both samples (Iraq, r =.36; Afghanistan, r =.29) but only magnified the relationship between combat exposure and PTSD symptoms among service members in Iraq (r2 =.01). These findings were replicated when controlling for unit cohesion and symptoms of depression. Prayer/spirituality coping was not significantly associated with PTSD symptoms, regardless of combat exposure. Discussion focuses on how specific positive emotion-focused coping strategies may be helpful for military personnel in combat operations given the uncontrollable and chaotic nature of the environment. Implications include providing training for deploying personnel that covers the use of these positive emotion-focused coping strategies and the potential problems with self-blame. Such training may also be suitable for other high-risk occupations in which employees face uncontrollable situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-501
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Published 2017. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA


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